Referring to the recent letter about hot-deskers taking over their screens, reconfiguring the desktop and dumping the icons, obviously the hot-desker in question had nothing better to do! As a way of safeguarding these items, copy the contents of C:\windows\desktop directory off to a back-up dir you have created somewhere on your PC or floppy disk. Thus, if deleted, you can copy them back. You may want to do the same for C:\windows\start menu C:\windows\start menu\programs\startup.

Ian "Leave it alone!", via e-mail

He says:

Um, right, yes. A backup dir. But I don't think my computer has any dirs - just little pictures of folders, paper and dustbins and such.

She says:

Thank you very much. This will prove most useful to the computer-literate. We always welcome kind readers who send in extra solutions (it means we have less work and can go home early).


I have reason to believe I am unpopular with lots of people (or sometimes a friendship cools off without known reason). When I try, as diplomatically as possible, to find out why, no one will talk. What can I do? I should add I already know why I am unpopular with people in authority: I tend to ask reasonable but unpopular questions (you may remember Chris Patten recently suggested that the awkward squad should be encouraged!). My query relates to people who are not in authority over me.

Anonymous, Scotland

He says:

One of the more ludicrous misconceptions about modern life is that everyone has an enormous circle of friends. In reality, human capacity for true intimacy is limited. If you can count two or three good friends you really trust, you're luckier than many. Don't feel you have to cultivate a huge group of acquaintances for the sake of appearance.

She says:

The clue may just lie in the second part of your letter. As a fully-paid- up member of the "awkward squad", do you carry your whistle-blowing tendencies over into your personal life? Pointing out problems or inadequacies with other people's strategies, whether you're pulling apart the personnel department's plan to sack all the admin staff or pointing out that the weekend hiking route will mean missing the five o'clock bus home, tends not to go down well, especially if done with relish rather than tact.


I'm very worried about my dad. He has had health problems in the past and hasn't been feeling well for some time. I won't go into all the medical details but it doesn't sound very good to me. I've told him to see his doctor and he has often said he will make an appointment but hasn't done anything about it. He can be a grumpy old fellow and I can't think how to persuade him.

Martina, Chiswick

He says:

Your father is an automonous adult - don't cajole him. It is disempowering for older citizens when their children assume a quasi-parenting role. You have shown concern. It's up to him now.

She says:

For heaven's sake! One of the main reasons people go through having kids in the first place is so someone will look after them when they're old and decrepit. And this is thoroughly selfish behaviour: if your father neglects his health and gets sick, who will be the one running round with chicken soup and library books, finding specialists and smoothing pillows? Take action at once. Can you enlist your mother's help? Make an appointment for a home visit and both be there to persuade him to see the doctor. Failing that: clout him with a brick, tie him up, put a sack over his head and carry him bodily to the surgery.


A friend who is moving temporarily to a flat where she can't have pets has asked us if we will take on her two guinea pigs, Treacle and Twiglet, for six months. It seems a small favour but I don't care for rodents (they have horrid pink feet, ugh!) and don't want to feed and clean them out. What if we want to go away? What if one of them gets ill or escapes? Also I don't subscribe to the idea that they're little furry human beings: they're just mobile lumps of hair. The trouble is, when my friend rang to propose this scheme, she got my husband who immediately said yes, so now I feel that I can't back down (even though I can't see him lifting so much as a finger to help look after them).

Anna, Hertfordshire

He says:

You sound very selfish. It's not as if your friend is asking you to take on a pack of slavering Rottweilers. I had guinea pigs as a boy and they are delightful. Twiglet and Treacle are two tiny souls with nowhere to go: they will take up hardly any space and eat virtually nothing. How can you refuse them? (Incidentally: guinea pigs, like humans, cannot synthesise vitamin C, so don't forget to give them fresh green veg or they'll get scurvy. This was on Animal Hospital recently).

She says:

Accept Twiglet and Treacle with a gracious smile, then, when they've been in the house five minutes, wheeze and sneeze copiously. A convenient allergy will get you off the hook without you having to look like the kind of mean-minded person who would throw two little furry creatures out on the street.